When I first began studying astrology, it felt like a combo of deciphering ancient Babylonian glyphs, re-living 10th-grade geometry, and pronouncing Uranus differently than my inner 12-year-old preferred. The astrological learning process became far more intuitive and less mechanical (like cramming for geometry) when I began to relate my understanding of the cosmos to my relationship with the natural world.
Enter the elements…
Do you like the wind? Seriously. How do you feel about a howling, crisp breeze swirling about? Welcomed ambient backdrop or annoyingly chilly distraction? What images does fire conjure? A glistening glow for all to gather around, or an out-of-control blaze threatening to consume all in its path? Does diving into a refreshing pool of water spark joy or a deep-seated fear of the unknown? Finally, if I tell you ‘you’re on solid ground,’ is your first reaction a sigh of relief or a yawn of boredom?
I’m playing 21-question weather channel edition with you on purpose because, most likely, you have a response and some sort of feeling about each of these natural elements. Your visceral reaction is going to help you understand astrology so much better because-
Relating the natural world to the qualities of the zodiac signs provides us with an instant connection to how planets in these signs express themselves.
The elements in astrology are referred to as the triplicities- a division of the twelve zodiac signs into a group of three signs based on their elemental qualities (Fire, Earth, Air, Water). Each sign represented by a particular element presents a unique expression of those qualities.
The Four elements and their corresponding zodiac signs are:
Fire: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Earth: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Air: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Water: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
The following is a breakdown of how the nature of each element in our environment translates to the expression of the zodiac signs they embody. If you have planets in these signs, you may see a direct correlation between what you see in nature and how that planet functions in your chart.
In this exploration, I compare how an element may manifest in our lives when there are a lot of planets/placements activating it or conversely what that expression may look like if there are no planets/placements in a particular element.
Something I reflect on a lot is that regardless of if there are planetary placements there or not we still have all twelve signs, and therefore all four elements uniquely influencing the twelve houses of our chart. Having planetary, luminary, or other placements in these twelve areas of our lives (houses) colorizes the activity, emphasis and quality of that element.
Let’s explore each element (starting with the spicy chimichangas, aka fire signs) and discover what it means to have (and have-not) planets and placements characterized by the tangible world.
Signs represented: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Keywords: heat, action, energy, passion, urgency, desire, instinct, illuminating
Common sayings or colloquialisms/neologisms related to fire: “light a fire under them *or a certain body part;)”, “I’m burning up.” “That’s fire”, “you’re so hot.”
Fire is an impossible element to ignore (unless you’re that meme-famous dog casually sipping coffee amidst a house ablaze). Fire signs too, much like the element they represent, seldom go unnoticed. When they’re in a room they light it up, and if you gloss over them they may just burn it down (jk-ing, mostly).
The element of fire is also incredibly active and requires specific environments to harness that energy. For example, when a fire is put in a container (ie: an oven, a campfire, or a room) its heat can be sustained and controlled.
There is a duality to each element associated with the zodiac, but fire hands-down wins the award for most pronounced. Fire can be massively destructive or provide a motivational impulse to act, unlike any other element. Again, no one except the coffee-sipping meme dog is chill in a fire.
“I do like it hot!”
Applying the element of fire to your zodiac chart:
Fire brings warmth, passion, urgency, desire, and energy to whatever planetary body it touches. For example, when your sun is in a fire sign, your vitality and passion may present outwardly. Non-astro translation- you know you’re hot!!!
When the fire placements in our chart are balanced, we confidently pursue our goals, hype others up, and create a welcoming and desirable environment for others. On the flip side, the other expression of fire can have zero chill and result in pushing our agenda too far or overpowering others.
Expect an action-oriented, lively, desire-seeking, passionate, and urgency-possessed nature to characterize the areas of your life (houses) ruled by the incendiary fire signs.
I prefer vacationing in Alaska, salads, and winter wear!
What happens when I have ZERO planets in fire signs?!
One of the main motivations for writing this article is to address that you are not less than or without, or too extra because of your lack of or excess of a particular element. Remember, whatever you have or do not have in your natal chart is part of what makes your special sauce so special!
When fire lacks in our chart, it’s not that we lack warmth or the ability to express ourselves, it’s just that those qualities may present in a more nuanced way. For example, one’s inner fire may only ignite at home vs. in public life. The expression of passion, anger, and desire may be diverted through other elemental avenues and could present in a more nuanced or layered fashion. Anger and frustrations can flow out through one’s passion; expressed in a work of art rather than through direct actions.
Having an absence of fire placements could also show up as possessing a lack of urgency. Fire is a great motivator for getting shit done and without that influence, some may experience a lack of internal motivation. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re on sloth status for life, it may just mean you may do better with external sources motivating you like rent being due or a deadline at work.
In my observation, people without fire in their chart seek out decisive partners, groups, or mentors with strong, outward personalities. These flame holders provide a model to develop our sense of self-advocacy and point out where our passions reside.
Signs represented: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Keywords: Stabilizing, foundational, dense, dry, supportive, immovable, containing
Common sayings or colloquialisms/neologisms related to earth: “on solid ground, keep your feet on the ground, I’m so grounded, move mountains, make a mountain out of a molehill.”
Congrats earth signs, you rep the planet on which we live and where the other three elements must adapt to thrive. This is your world, we just stand on it.
Earth provides sure footing or at least shows you in an unglossed way what you’re stepping on. Earth provides a container for drinking water, earth allows us the foundation to build homes on, and that which grows from the ground nurtures our atmosphere and bodies.
Earth rules structure. Take a look at the environmental structures around you, every living organism relies on each other to survive. There is an order to this planet, it’s a ‘perfectly functioning system’ -somewhere, a Capricorn is getting turned on by that phrase. But seriously, the ecosystem is a perfect example of how everything exists to serve a specific role and function and ultimately sustain life on this planet.
Applying the element of Earth to your chart:
Earth shows up in our lives as structure, obstacles, instructions, infrastructures, systems, rules, and opportunities to advance.
Earth signs, like the mountains, streams, and luscious forests they represent, demonstrate the inextricable connection to the natural world.
Earth signs also have an innate understanding of what it takes to manifest in this physical realm. In an astrological context, The earth acts as the metaphorical monopoly board of life where the opportunity for advancement exists alongside setbacks and pitfalls. The promise of a tangible reward is the chief reason why we keep coming back to play this seemingly endless game.
Channel your inner Julie Andrews because-
“I feel heavy, oh so heavy, and… somber?”
Is that because I have a preponderance of planets in earth signs?
Have you ever followed a recipe you were excited about to a tee only to find it tastes bland and unfulfilling?
Having an excess of planets in earth signs may feel like you checked every box you were told to check, only to find yourself lacking the satisfaction promised. As earth signs represent the physical world around us, if all we rely on for happiness is these structures, then we can eventually feel like prisoners within its confines.
Those with a majority of planets or placements in earth signs may benefit from spending time with your spontaneous friends. Go ahead, shake it up and shake yourself out of any rigidity in your life. Explore new horizons with vigor and create new goals that seem secondary to your primary ones.
“Tell my parents I snuck out of my house in 2009, because I need to get grounded.”
What if I lack earth signs in my chart?
As someone with only a single planet in an earth sign, I can attest that stilling my mind & body can be a pretty elusive exercise.
As with any other elemental lack, awareness of where you may have more challenges and where you can open yourself up to receiving more support is key.
The cool thing about the element of earth is that it is almost always accessible. For example, I feel instantly connected to it when trekking through unmarred nature. Even though I’m not often internally motivated to go on a hike or sit by a stream, I know how beneficial it is for my psyche. Luckily, (or perhaps by divine intervention) I have several nature-loving friends who regularly and mercilessly urge me to tag along on their outdoor excursions. If you can’t easily access nature try placing your feet in the dirt, touching a leaf (rosemary is a personal fave), or sitting on the ground, as these actions can help you connect to this element.
*One other observation: a lack of earth energy in a natal chart may lead to a unique path to achieving goals. One that may deviate from the tried and true way of doing things but can achieve through unconventional means.
Signs represented: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Keywords: Cooling, dispersing, refreshing, connecting, promotes sharing, progressive, intellectual, thought-provoking
Common sayings or colloquialisms/neologisms related to air: Where the wind takes you, whispers in the wind, winged messenger, air it out, on-bated-breath, full of hot air, a breath of fresh air, air-head, clear the air.
Air is everywhere, and thank god because we would die without it. Putting my science lesson for newborns aside, let’s instead focus on YOUR connection with air.
Think about a fresh breeze, think about a sigh of relief, a bubbly drink, holding your breath, the air in an open field, or a stuffy office. Air signs seek freshness- fresh ideas, fresh inspiration, fresh perspective, fresh starts, and the ultra-obvious- fresh air. What is your relationship with the various forms of this element? Now look at your chart and apply that sentiment to the houses air signs occupy in your natal chart.
The function of air and its astrological connection:
To connect the natural element of air to the zodiac signs it represents, think about the functions of wind. Wind propels, disseminates, and moves us. The wind is responsible for cross-pollination on the positive, and the spreading of germs and air-borne illnesses in the cons column. In the past air held a deterministic sway, as the erratic occurrence of wind decided if ships sailed or stayed portside. Of course, with the advent of modern travel that dynamic tilted the other way. No longer were we captive to the expression –“where the wind blows, no one knows.”
Air translates directly to our ability to stay connected- think of open airwaves, the internet, the cloud, and social media. A primary link between all air signs is a dependency on connection. The element of air binds us together through shared resources, the internet, for example, decentralizes information, making it accessible to all who seek its knowledge.
Air signs tend to be seekers and connectors- wanting to perpetuate a continual flow and exchange of ideas. When I think trendy, cutting-edge, forward-thinking, I think air. I also associate the following archetypes with these signs- trendsetters, influencers, savvy politicians, stirrer-uppers, and mind-melters (ie: someone who makes you say, ‘they did not just say that.’).
Does having too much air in my chart make me an airhead?
My natal chart is loaded with air signs, am I going to float away?!
Ah, insults from the early 90s make me smile, and sticking to the nostalgia track- your mind may have as much code as the Matrix.
The whole “my mind is going a million miles an hour” may apply to those with a majority of planets in air signs. Your racing mind and the words racing to catch up are just a byproduct of this particular elemental abundance.
So you have three personal planets in Gemini, and a Moon-Jupiter conjunction in Aquarius, and so of course your friends ask if you’re allergic to silence. No, but you are allergic to staleness. I equate an abundance of planets in air signs to a fan blowing constantly, it doesn’t have to be a distraction, it can be a refreshing part of the milieu.
Because Air spreads and diffuses, it may take a concerted effort to focus your energy on one task. Finding ways to harness intellectual curiosity and those keen insights so they are constructive will help to utilize this elemental quality. The key is to invest time in the people, projects, and passions that mentally challenge you and provide a network of sounding boards to listen to and respond to.
If I lack air signs in my chart, does that mean I’m more of the strong silent type?
No air = still fair
How you approach social settings and interactions may veer from typical socializing.
A broad social orbit choked full of acquaintances may appeal less than a close-knit group of reliable friends.
Your personal messaging and how you share about the issues that matter most to you might also be impacted. As an example, say you’re passionate about promoting equity and inclusion but instead of talking publically about it, you choreograph a provocative dance number on Tikitok that gets people talking. Or if you want to motivate others to care about the state of our planet, you may prefer to speak with your actions rather than your words- like starting a jar-collecting collective that encourages reusing sustainable containers.
One example related to expanding how we think of socializing is the evolution of gaming. Playing video games back in the day was viewed as a solitary activity (usually depicted in some Mom’s basement) but has now evolved into a multi-billion-person social network connecting people all over the world via platforms like Twitch and Discord. My point is that there are many ways to connect, and one without air placements may find and expand upon those alternative avenues.
Signs represented: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Keywords: Dampness, wetness, submergence, surrealness, depth, dreams, emotions, creativity, EQ. empathy, contentment, and imagination
Common sayings or colloquialisms/neologisms related to water: “What’s in this water” “thirst-traps” “water works” “the mysteries of the deep blue”
The element of Water in astrology is associated with creativity, intuition, emotional intelligence, imagination, the supernatural, psychology, occult, regeneration, and replenishment.
Like starring out to the seemingly boundaryless sea, this element offers the most mystery and intrigue into what it is and where it leads.
As mysterious or foreign as this element may sometimes present itself, humans are mostly made of it. Again, bringing clutch science lessons all day. By accepting that water presents both familiarities and enigmas we can start to understand the beautiful complexity of this essential element. We crave it for survival but too much scares the hell out of us.
Of all the elements water hands-down wins the paradoxical award. Water can nurture, engulf, conceal, placate, and replenish. Water is essential for all lifeforms yet provides an unsustainable habitat for so many organisms, including us humans.
Your relationship with the element of water can clue you into your relationship with life’s mysteries and the exploration of the intangible world. In the watery realm, rational has less sway than say emotions, creativity, and intuition.
How water manifests in our charts:
Water in our charts relates to emotion, receptivity, empathy, imagination, intuition, mysteries, soulfulness, and psychic abilities. Water shows where there are depths to explore and inner goodies to uncover. In my observations, water placements are potentials that reside in us but unlike the other elements may not be as easily seen and accessed. Water takes effort to fully understand and maximize these placements in the tangible world. Think converting swamp water to drinking water, or digging underground to find a reservoir.
No better example of this than our imagination. No one knows what’s going on in there until we create something tangible from it. Our feelings too are something that requires exploration. Like any body of water we don’t fully know what’s going on judging by the surface until we explore underneath. Uncovering the true meaning of water placements can reveal all of the goodness that makes life worth living- humor, joy, contentment, soulfulness, sexual connection, creativity, love, and so much more.
Since this element functions well when contained, here are some short statements on water via bullet points:
- Water signs transmute the intangible aspect of our world and persons into being.
- Water is the spectrum of emotions- humor, joy, sadness, it gives contrast and depth to our actions, our commitments, and our partnerships.
- Water nurtures, fills, and replenishes.
- Water invites introspection, and seeks a deeper meaning to life.
Uh, I have a lot of water in my chart is that why I’m DTF- down to feel?
Whoa, this almost took a hard NSFW turn. Yes, an abundance of water placements can create a landscape rich in feels- both yours and the emotions (recognized or not) by those around you.
An abundance of water placements instills a hydrated and nourished setting for emotional processing, fluid imagination, CREATIVITY, emotional receptivity, and the potential for depth and meaning outside of mundane existence/basic survival. Individuals with a majority of placements in water signs are provided with an added dimension to see the world through- like an emotional lens of feelings. On the downside, these people can feel constantly flooded with said emotion, feeling as if they are swimming (or drowning) on dryland.
The tricky part to consider is that water follows an ebb & flow and the monotonous demands of everyday life may put pressure to not simply drift but swim for your life. Other traits of having an abundance of water could manifest as a tendency to let emotions be the final determinant, overriding what exists in plain sight.
I have no placements in water. Am I the Terminator?
A) No. You are not an unemotional cyborg
B) Not all robots lack emotion. Case in point- Optimus Prime.
It’s not that you lack emotions, but rather that the avenue to explore or share them may not come naturally. Not everyone can gush empathy or pour themselves tirelessly into a creative endeavor. Some will put their feelings into tangible gifts they give to others, and some will express their feelings through grit and determination. There’s no one way to share your emotions and if sharing or acknowledging they exist is uncomfortable then it’s helpful to know why.
That’s exactly why not having an element in one’s chart presents an opportunity to experience an elemental quality uniquely. Like a waterslide, who would have thought hard plastic would be a perfect vessel to propel humans from? Hence, the unusual expression of an element in unexpected ways.
The answers to your astrological musings surround you. In my experience, astrology and its efficacy align when we can relate it to our tangible world- nature informs astrological meanings. Daily interactions with the elements like- showering(water), heating up food (fire), climbing a staircase (earth), exhaling mid-staircase (air), and your feelings towards those actions, provide context to the interplay between planets ruled by these elements in your natal chart. A direct connection to your tangible world juxtaposed with your study of astrology addresses the sometimes esoteric and abstract nature of learning this practice of assembling the cosmic sum parts into a whole.
We are all unique individuals, and my way to personalize astrology may not be yours so keep exploring if this isn’t your jam, and you will uncover your unique way to synthesize the stars.
If you found this helpful (as in- makes you want to pet more trees or stay more hydrated) I invite you to explore another way to categorize or contain the energy of the zodiac signs by studying the quadruplicities/modalities. This form of categorization shows how each sign acts and carries out its purpose.
Almost 4,000 words into this deep dive, I think that’s all I got. If you’re new here and wondering why I’m taking a literal, full-throttle embrace to my Cancerian archetype, then let me tell ya, I’m the author of an astrology-based children’s book adventure series called “The Little Crab Finds a Friend.” This book series which follows a lost little crab on his journey home through an astrological land, speaks to my blend of water/fire, cardinal placements, and my polarity between my sun/ic and Midheaven. To learn more about the little crab’s adventure (book one available on Amazon) and the release of book number two (a run-in with an Aries Ewe) please follow me on Instagram @littlecrabastrology and sign up for my newsletter at littlecrabastrology.com